Interview: Tales of ingenuity11 October 2011
UK-based CI company Ingenious Home has made a particular mark on the home cinema/media room segment since it was established by Murray Whewell (pictured) in 2009. The trend towards the use of smartphones and tablets to control home technology is among the developments currently inspiring Whewell, who discussed the past, present and future of Ingenious Home with David Davies.
What was the starting point for Ingenious Home, and when did you start the company?
For over 20 years, I was owner/manager of a successful electronic engineering business designing and manufacturing specialised equipment for government organisations. Having sold that business and managed its integration into the parent company, I turned to my passion of home technology integration. After a month or two of crammed swotting, I passed the CEDIA certification design examination, becoming a CEDIA1 Certified Professional to validate my knowledge in this area and provide the company with some credentials. I formed Ingenious Home in late 2009 and began trading in 2010.
Which areas of CI business are most important to your company, and why?
Home cinema/media room installations are one of the most important areas of business for Ingenious Home as they represent the fullest entertainment experience for the customer and provide an effective showcase of the company capabilities to encourage new business. In addition, they are the most enjoyable and rewarding element of design and commissioning from the company perspective. Another important area is providing good service. My previous experience supplying government organisations gave me a firm belief in the importance of providing reliable quality solutions, careful project management, and delivery on time and within budget. A number of my customers have previously experience poor service from their CI suppliers but now feel confident working with Ingenious Home.
Is there a particular project that was significant in the development of the company and its reputation in the CI sector?
The most influential project in the development of the company was my own major house extension and refurbishment. It occurred before forming the company and it made me realise the need for good quality custom integrators who listen to customer requirements and liaise well with the other trades. Seeing the project from the customer point of view gave me great insight into the needs of the customer and what custom installers can do to make the whole project experience a good one. This frustration led me to design and manage the installation of my own home technology including a dedicated home cinema, whole house lighting and curtain control, multi-room video, multi-room music system, CCTV and home network.
In what ways have your ideas about control systems changed in recent years?
The trend away from dedicated programmable remote controls to the use of smartphones and tablets to control home technology is opening the way to more versatile and integrated control options. Customers don’t want to spend large sums on a dedicated programmable controller when they can have it combined with other useful technology functions. There are a huge number of elegant apps to enhance use of home entertainment including media selection and streaming, viewing guides, equipment control apps and programmable control apps (I eagerly await the Sky guide/controller for the iPad). The trick will be combining all these into a seamless integrated control centre that doesn’t require switching between apps.
What kind of requirements are becoming increasingly important to your customers?
It’s no surprise in the current economic climate that value for money is high on the customers’ list of priorities. Linked with this is the customer desire to get more out what they already have or what they intend to buy. Enticed by TV and magazine advertising, they are keen to have on-demand services but without necessarily incurring the cost of whole new systems. The demand for 3D doesn’t yet seem to be particularly strong but, when investing in new equipment, some customers are keen to include the capability for future use while others intend to wait for 3D without glasses.
What are likely to be the priorities for Ingenious Home moving forwards?
As the market gets tougher and at the current early growth stage of the company, the priority for Ingenious Home is effective marketing. The internet appears to be the best medium for gaining new customers which seems consistent with the interests and capabilities of customers wanting home technology. Referrals from satisfied customers are a growing source of new business and I am surprised, although I probably shouldn’t be, at the amount of repeat business. Having formed good relationships with customers and provided them with good media solutions, they are happy to come back for enhancements and for other technology like CCTV and home automation.